Until late last month, the Social Security Administration (SSA) required a pen and ink signature on forms from disability applicants to file the paperwork to hire a representative. The SSA said that they “require that the signatures on the notice of appointment and fee agreement be in pen-and-ink to provide a measure of protection of the claimant’s privacy and data integrity.” The so-called ‘wet-ink’ signatures affected hundreds of thousands of applicants filing for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, and many of them—because of their disabilities and financial cirucmstances—have serious difficulties with obtaining these forms and completing and returning them by hand. This antiquated requirement can add weeks and even months to the disability process.
The National Federation of the Blind and four individual plaintiffs filed a federal lawsuit challenging this requirement. It is their position that requiring wet-ink signatures has always been discriminatory and in the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic, it also jeopardizes the health and well-being of applicants. “It is both unlawful and unconscionable that this agency continues to place blind and disabled consumers at a severe disadvantage, especially during a life-threatening global pandemic,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind in a press release. “Government should innovate, not discriminate.”
The lawsuit—filed on May 18—had an impact. The SSA promptly announced that “effective no later than May 22, the agency will begin temporarily permitting putative representatives to submit written notices with claimants’ electronic signatures.”
It remains to be seen if the SSA will go back to its old signature policy after the COVID-19 crisis has passed. If you are looking for representation in your Social Security Disability claim, call or email Nash Disability Law for a free evaluation of your situation. If we represent you, we can handle the paperwork electronically under SSA’s new rule.